Sometimes a question gets fired into your comfort zone, and the first idea of an answer is something like “That’s easy, because… ehm… it’s obvious!” That’s what’s happened recently when a friend posed a very simple question. “Why do you like sailing?”
So, what is it about that sailing business? Apart from a perfect chance to get rid of as much money as you can afford – and sometimes even a lot more than that – why can many sailors simply not get enough of sailing? I’ll try to put into words the first couple of thoughts that crossed my mind after I had been asked that question. Why do I like sailing?
Sailing means freedom
Yeah, sure, everybody says that. But which kind of freedom? For me it is not only that I can sail to (almost) every place on this planet. At least those where waterways can get me to. It is about leaving or staying, starboard or portside, day or night, old fashioned or high tech, cruising or racing, with crew or alone, roaming around ashore or daydreaming in the cockpit, weekend sailing or living aboard. It is my freedom to choose.
Being close to nature
Sails up, motor quiet. The only sounds around are wind, water, birds and some boating noises deep down inside. You move along powered by wind only, watch wildlife close by. You find plenty of time to admire waves, water creatures and millions of stars in a very dark night at sea. The next (small crowd of) human beings is miles away. Some define this as the ultimate experience in and with nature.
It certainly is for me.
Jump overboard for a swim, collect rain water to get some fresh drinks, and – ultimately, every now and then – be at the mercy of nature’s forces to get from A to B. Ok, this definitely was the rather romantic part of my thoughts.
Direct, honest feedback
It does work with yachts as well, but as usual it is much quicker and more effective with dinghies. Whatever you do during sailing you will get instant and especially honest feedback. And if you don’t do anything you will get immediate feedback as well.
Feedback can be positive (e.g. more speed, boat moving calmer) or negative (very long list). Whatever it is, you immediately get the message that something is either pretty cool now – or the exact opposite. There is no way of getting a “hmm, this is kind of ok but I need to think about it” reply from your boat, same as you won’t get a chance to discuss with your sailing boat the last manoeuvre in a meeting middle of next week. Sailing is now.
Nothing is ever the same
No matter what you’re doing on a boat, it never is exactly the same as before. Even when you manoeuvre into your berth for the umpteenth time, something is always different. Be it wind, waves, sun, clouds, mood, lines, birds flying around or people wanting to help. It is different, every single time.
The same is true, of course, and even more than anything else, when you are out at sea. Never the same sunset, movement of the waves, wind direction, strength, gusts.
And that is one of the main reasons I love sailing. I am not a friend of repetitions, and sailing is the perfect activity for never ever doing exactly the same thing again.
And the negative side of it?
Well, yes, quite a few negative things as well, of course. Money, storms, pirates, sea monsters, serial killers as crew members, and always always always something to repair. That’s about it. And I do tend to forget all those negatives when enjoying a sundowner in the cockpit…
And a lot more than the above
There is, of course, a lot more to sailing than just the above. Those were just my initial thoughts after having been asked that dubious question. Whatever the reason may be for spending time on the boat, sailing seems to be giving a more than wonderful time to a lot of people. So wonderful, in fact, that almost every “sailing infected” person keeps thinking about it constantly and is eagerly awaiting the next chance to get back onto the boat again.
Those are my thoughts on “why do you like sailing”, am sure you all would have tons to add…